Are 6 month dental cleanings really necessary?

Your dentist says your teeth look great but wants to see you back in 6 months for a cleaning and check up. Your spouse also doesn’t have any cavities, but the dentist wants to see them 4 times per year. So what gives? How often do you really need to get a checkup?

The fact of the matter is, there is no magic number of visits you should schedule per year. The industry standard dictates that for most healthy patients twice per year is optimal, however if you are prone to periodontal issues you may require more frequent cleanings to maintain optimal oral health. Dental cleanings remove built-up plaque, the daily debris that we keep under control with proper brushing. Plaque can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria that cause periodontal or gum disease, an infection of the tissue that holds your teeth in place. With time, teeth may loosen and be in danger of falling out. Smoking, systemic diseases including diabetes, pregnancy, and the use of oral contraceptives can all increase the risk of gum disease. If your gums bleed when you clean your teeth, or are tender, swollen or red, see a dentist immediately.

Timing of dental visits can also be driven by your insurance plan, if you have one. There are people we want to see every three to four months, but their coverage is lacking so they ask to stretch the check-ups out a bit, but it isn’t wise to let insurance dictate treatment. Periodontal issues can advance quickly if left un-treated and the result can be devastating and irreversible.

With growing evidence linking oral health with general health, only you , your hygienist and your dentist can determine how many visits are best. As a general rule, go a minimum of twice per year, but more frequently if you have specific problems. Our best tip for reducing trips to the dental chair? Keep on flossing.

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Your Evolving Toothbrush

If you are following your dentist’s advice, you are using your toothbrush faithfully twice per day, but how often do you actually think about the tool you are using? We thought it would be fun to explore how your toothbrush has evolved over the years.

It is believed that toothbrushing tools date back as far as 3000 BC when the Babylonians and the Egyptians made a brush by fraying the end of a twig and scraping their teeth. Tombs of ancient egyptians have been found containing “tooth sticks” alongside their owners.

Around 1600 BC the Chinese developed “chewing sticks” which were made from aromatic tree twigs to freshen breath. It was also the Chinese who, in the 15th century, were thought to have developed the first natural bristle toothbrush resembling what we still use today. They attached the bristles from a pig’s neck to a bone or bamboo handle and used the tool to clean their teeth. When it was brought from China to Europe, this design was adapted and often used softer horsehair. Some early European toothbrushes even used feathers as bristles. The first toothbrush of a more modern design with 3 rows of bristles was introduced in 1844 in England.

Natural bristles made way to the more modern bristles in 1938 when DuPont invented nylon. By the 1950’s the bristles became even softer followed by the first electric toothbrush in 1960.

Over its long history, the toothbrush has evolved to become a scientifically designed tool using modern ergonomic designs and safe and hygienic materials that optimize your oral health. Some more advanced electric toothbrushes are so smart they can tell us if we are brushing too hard, or not enough, they can time us and some can even communicate directly with your dentist! Today’s sonic toothbrushes are so powerful they deliver more brushstrokes in 2 minutes than a manual toothbrush can deliver in one month! They are able to remove far more plaque and bacteria from below the gum line and between the teeth than brushing and flossing alone. We offer a variety of models of electric toothbrushes for purchase in our office at a discount to you.
To find out which toothbrush would most benefit your oral health, talk to Cindie or Dr. Glass at your next visit!

SMOKERS: SO YOU THINK YOU’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE?

         We all know that cigarette smoking has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes, respiratory disease and premature babies.  If that information isn’t enough to make you quit, consider this…”Smokers who smoked less than half a pack per day were almost three times more likely than non-smokers to have periodontitis. Those who smoked more than a pack and a half per day had almost six times the risk,” explains Scott Tomar, D.M.D., Dr.P.H. of the Division of Oral Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  And don’t think these statistics are specific only to cigarette smokers.  Cigar and pipe smokers also have a much higher prevalence of moderate to severe periodontitis, compared to former smokers and non-smokers. Not only that, smokers are also at a higher risk of alveolar bone loss than non-smokers.  Carcinogens in smoke interfere with healing, making smokers more likely to lose teeth and not respond to treatment.
     That may not look all that bad to you at first glance, but lets elaborate on that for a minute. The toxins from use of tobacco products are actually melting the jawbone away, elongating the tooth surface, restricting blood flow and creating an unstable environment. The teeth will become loose and will eventually be lost, even if there is no decay and the tooth itself is not diseased. Even if you live with a smoker, you are at risk from secondhand smoke endangering your oral health. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that subjects with periodontitis who were exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to develop bone loss, the number one cause of tooth loss.
     Most smokers are well aware of increased cancer risk being directly correlated to smoking, but studies show that 90% of people with cancer of the mouth and throat use tobacco. That number should be cause for alarm. 
     Smoking Marijuana (also known as Cannabis) can be just as detrimental. Cannabis smoke acts as a carcinogen and is associated with tooth decay, periodontal disease and pre-malignant lesions. Users are also prone to oral infections, possibly due to the drug’s immunosuppressive effects. 
      Just in case you are wondering if smokeless tobacco is a better option, the simple answer is no. Like cigars and cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products (for example, snuff and chewing tobacco) contain at least 28 chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of oral cancer and cancer of the throat and esophagus. In fact, chewing tobacco contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes, making it harder to quit. One can of snuff delivers more nicotine than over 60 cigarettes. 

Smokeless tobacco can irritate your gum tissue, causing it to recede or pull away from your teeth. Once the gum tissue recedes, your teeth roots become exposed, creating an increased risk of tooth decay. Exposed roots are also more sensitive to hot and cold or other irritants, making eating and drinking uncomfortable.

     Regardless of how long you have used tobacco products, quitting now can greatly reduce serious risks to your health. Studies show that eleven years after quitting, former smokers’ likelihood of having periodontal (gum) disease was not significantly different from people who never smoked. If you need help kicking the habit, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor or dentist for tips and resources. 

The Holiday Grind

It’ s that time of year again! As we are bustling about getting ourselves prepared for the upcoming holiday season, listening to songs declaring it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and trying to juggle our normal hectic lives and the new demands that shopping, baking and parties are putting on us, some of us may be feeling less than jolly. Even if you are not quite ready to declare, “Bah-Humbug”, do you realize the effects that added stress could be having on your oral health?

Stress has been linked to ailments such as canker sores, teeth grinding, TMJ (pain in the jaw joint) from clenching, dry mouth, and gum inflammation.  Your body reacts to chronic stress by producing the stress hormone in your body called cortisol.  This cortisol weakens your immune system, and your weak immune system allows plaque’s harmful bacteria to invade your gums, making your food choices and good oral hygiene even more important.  

Everyone reacts to stress differently. Two of the most common stress-coping mechanisms that we see during the holidays are nighttime grinding or clenching as well as stress eating, or indulging on holiday candies, cookies, and sweets.  When we clench or grind our teeth, we exert immense pressure between the teeth, and ultimately tooth enamel wears off and gums recede.  As for our overindulgence on holiday treats, the high sugar content creates a breeding ground for bacteria in your mouth, and this bacteria produces the tooth decaying acid which causes cavities. Even if you avoid the obviously sugary treats like egg nog or hot chocolate, the extra glass of wine, or crackers and cheese can have the same effects. Wine is erosive, and the high carbohydrate content in wine and other party foods can be a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Beware of foods like peanut brittle, or biting hard candies, as it is easy to crack a tooth while eating them.

It’s important to remember not to neglect yourself or your oral health this holiday season.  Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in the holidays, your commitments, your family, and your friends that you lose sight of what is really important….you and your health. Stick to your normal healthy diet and exercise program as much as possible, and remember to take some time for yourself. Dr. Glass and his staff would like to wish you a very happy and healthy holiday season!

Periodontal Disease = Heart Disease? Maybe Not.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the connection between periodontal disease and heart disease. Many researchers have suggested that gum disease can be a cause of heart disease, and that treatment of gum disease and good oral hygiene can reduce a patient’s risk of getting heart disease. As a result of this research, certain companies have marketed their products like toothpaste as being good for the heart.
The American Heart Association has reviewed hundreds of papers and studies and in a scientific statement concluded that so far there’s no conclusive evidence that gum disease is a contributing factor of heart disease. Confusing isn’t it? While we know that it is plausible for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream and affect the heart, there is only enough evidence to show correlation between the two diseases, but not causation. We do know that diseases of the mouth and of the heart share many of the same risk factors including smoking, age and diabetes, and that may explain why they occur simultaneously in some people. It is possible that future research may find a cause and effect between these two diseases, but maybe not.

While it is comforting to know that periodontal health does not affect heart health, it is still important to maintain good oral hygiene. Most adults have some degree of periodontal disease and it is the most common cause of tooth loss. The condition ranges from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. Symptoms can range from bad breath to bleeding gums, and in the worst cases, teeth are lost. That in itself should be reason enough to make good oral health a priority. Dr. Glass recommends routine dental cleanings every 6 months to maintain good oral health. If you receive a diagnosis of periodontal disease he may recommend more frequent visits to return your mouth to good health and prevent further progression of the disease.